Kevin Nash went to the University of Tennessee for one reason: to play basketball, and for three years that's pretty much what he did. Nash played center, and as a junior he helped the team advance to the Sweet 16 round of the NCAA tournament. But one physical altercation with legendary coach Don Devoe later, he was gone.
Nash made his way to Europe to play professionally, but during a game in Germany he injured his anterior cruciate ligament, which immediately ended his basketball career. Out of any better ideas, he decided to try something he'd always wanted to do: He joined the Army.
After going through basic at Fort McClellan, Nash wound up assigned to the 202nd Military Police Company in Giessen, Germany and served in a secure NATO facility for two years.
"I enjoyed the life," Nash said. "I was forced to be disciplined, and that was something I'd lacked to that point to a certain degree."
During his three years of military service, Nash rose to the rank of specialist.
"I liked it so much I thought about going to be a drill instructor," he said. But ultimately he decided not to reenlist. Family matters – including his father's failing health – took him back to his hometown of Detroit. After working on the assembly line at Ford Motor Company for a while, he decided to enter the world of professional wrestling.
Nash debuted in WCW as the orange-mohawked "Steel", one half of the tag team known as the "Master Blasters." His success right out of the gate was followed by more, adopting different personas and adjusting to changes in the organizations around him. He went from "Steel" to "Oz" to "Vinne Vegas" to "Diesel" before going back to his real name.
"The secret to being a pro wrestler, besides having physical abilities, is to pick a good personality," Nash said. "The closer it is to you the better."
And as he changed names he went from WCW to WWF and back again a few times before joining the WWE and, finally, signing on with Global Force Wrestling as a "legend" to help promote events and tours. In the process he became one of the industry's most popular wrestlers. His career culminated with him being inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame as part of the Class of 2015.
Nash also has a host of acting credits on his resume. Beside appearing in movies and on TV, his voice has been used in video games and cartoons. Last year he appeared in "John Wick" with Keanu Reeves, and this year he reprises his role as Tarzan in "Magic Mike XXL."
"Of all the things I've done, the 'Magic Mike' series most resembles the comradery of Army life," Nash said. "Working with the other guys reminds me of being in a squad." The producers even had the cast do weapons training together as a team-building exercise.
"Magic Mike XXL" was filmed in Savannah, Georgia, which worked out well for Nash as he now makes his home in Daytona, Florida. "Besides, I like to spend as little time as possible in L.A.," he added.
Nash is happy with the results in the sequel. "It's better than the first one," he said. "There's a lot more going on. It's more of a road trip and not just hanging in the club."
"Magic Mike XXL" opens nationwide on July 1.